Publications by authors named "Amy Dawel"

25 Publications

  • Page 1 of 1

Why the other-race effect matters: Poor recognition of other-race faces impacts everyday social interactions.

Br J Psychol 2021 May 19. Epub 2021 May 19.

Research School of Psychology, The Australian National University, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia.

What happens to everyday social interactions when other-race recognition fails? Here, we provide the first formal investigation of this question. We gave East Asian international students (N = 89) a questionnaire concerning their experiences of the other-race effect (ORE) in Australia, and a laboratory test of their objective other-race face recognition deficit using the Cambridge Face Memory Test (CFMT). As a 'perpetrator' of the ORE, participants reported that their problems telling apart Caucasian people contributed significantly to difficulties socializing with them. Moreover, the severity of this problem correlated with their ORE on the CFMT. As a 'victim' of the ORE, participants reported that Caucasians' problems telling them apart also contributed to difficulties socializing. Further, 81% of participants had been confused with other Asians by a Caucasian authority figure (e.g., university tutor, workplace boss), resulting in varying levels of upset/difficulty. When compared to previously established contributors to international students' high rates of social isolation, ORE-related problems were perceived as equally important as the language barrier and only moderately less important than cultural differences. We conclude that the real-world impact of the ORE extends beyond previously identified specialized settings (eyewitness testimony, security), to common everyday situations experienced by all humans.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/bjop.12508DOI Listing
May 2021

Trajectories of depression and anxiety symptoms during the COVID-19 pandemic in a representative Australian adult cohort.

Med J Aust 2021 06 26;214(10):462-468. Epub 2021 Apr 26.

Australian National University, Canberra, ACT.

Objectives: To estimate initial levels of symptoms of depression and anxiety, and their changes during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia; to identify trajectories of symptoms of depression and anxiety; to identify factors associated with these trajectories.

Design, Setting, Participants: Longitudinal cohort study; seven fortnightly online surveys of a representative sample of 1296 Australian adults from the beginning of COVID-19-related restrictions in late March 2020 to mid-June 2020.

Main Outcome Measures: Symptoms of depression and anxiety, measured with the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9) depression and Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD-7) scales; trajectories of symptom change.

Results: Younger age, being female, greater COVID-19-related work and social impairment, COVID-19-related financial distress, having a neurological or mental illness diagnosis, and recent adversity were each significantly associated with higher baseline depression and anxiety scores. Growth mixture models identified three latent trajectories for depression symptoms (low throughout the study, 81% of participants; moderate throughout the study, 10%; initially severe then declining, 9%) and four for anxiety symptoms (low throughout the study, 77%; initially moderate then increasing, 10%; initially moderate then declining, 5%; initially mild then increasing before again declining, 8%). Factors statistically associated with not having a low symptom trajectory included mental disorder diagnoses, COVID-19-related financial distress and social and work impairment, and bushfire exposure.

Conclusion: Our longitudinal data enabled identification of distinct symptom trajectories during the first three months of the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia. Early intervention to ensure that vulnerable people are clinically and socially supported during a pandemic should be a priority.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.5694/mja2.51043DOI Listing
June 2021

Does motivational intensity exist distinct from valence and arousal?

Emotion 2021 Feb 25. Epub 2021 Feb 25.

Research School of Psychology.

The motivational intensity model proposes that the strength of one's urge to approach or avoid a stimulus is the primary driver of cognitive broadening/narrowing (Gable & Harmon-Jones, 2010d; Harmon-Jones et al., 2012). However, it is unclear whether motivational intensity is truly distinct from well-established dimensions of valence and arousal. Here we found an overwhelmingly strong relationship between motivational intensity and valence across all studies. In Study 1, we operationalized motivational intensity on 2 response rating scales and had multiple groups of participants (total 150) rate their response of motivational intensity, valence, and arousal to 300 pictures. There was a very strong relationship between motivational intensity and valence (r in excess of .9, in studies 1a and 1b), which challenges the idea that these 2 constructs are distinct. In contrast, motivational intensity ratings were not consistently positively related to arousal ratings, with only a moderate relationship found with avoidance motivation. In Study 2 we used an implicit measure of motivational intensity and valence and asked participants to classify their motivational intensity and valence in response to 100 pictures from Study 1. A high degree of correspondence was found between motivational intensity and valence on this measure. Overall, our findings are at odds with proposals in the literature that arousal can be used as a proxy for motivational intensity across the full approach-avoidance spectrum. Furthermore, these studies suggest that the cognitive effects attributed to motivational intensity in previous literature are best explained by valence. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved).
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/emo0000883DOI Listing
February 2021

Corrigendum: The Effect of COVID-19 on Mental Health and Wellbeing in a Representative Sample of Australian Adults.

Front Psychiatry 2020 21;11:619331. Epub 2021 Jan 21.

Centre for Mental Health Research, Research School of Population Health, The Australian National University, Canberra, ACT, Australia.

[This corrects the article DOI: 10.3389/fpsyt.2020.579985.].
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2020.619331DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7860974PMC
January 2021

Effects of previous exposure to psychotherapeutic strategies on depression and anxiety symptoms during the COVID-19 pandemic.

BJPsych Open 2021 Jan 19;7(1):e38. Epub 2021 Jan 19.

Centre for Mental Health Research, Research School of Population Health, The Australian National University, Australian Capital Territory, Australia.

Background: The COVID-19 pandemic has seen an increase in depression and anxiety among those with and without a history of mental illness. Commonly used forms of psychological therapy improve mental health by teaching psychotherapeutic strategies that assist people to better manage their symptoms and cope with life stressors. Minimal research to date has explored their application or value in managing mental health during significant broad-scale public health crises.

Aims: To determine which psychotherapeutic strategies people who have previously received therapy use to manage their distress during the COVID-19 pandemic, and whether the use and perceived helpfulness of these strategies has an effect on symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Method: Data (N = 857) was drawn from multiple waves of a representative longitudinal study of the effects of COVID-19 on the mental health of Australian adults, which includes measures of anxiety, depression and experiences with psychotherapy and psychotherapeutic strategies.

Results: Previous engagement in therapy with psychotherapeutic strategies had a protective effect on depressive but not anxiety symptoms. Common and helpful strategies used by respondents were exercise, mindfulness and breathing exercises. Using mindfulness and perceiving it to be helpful was associated with lower levels of depression and anxiety symptoms. No other strategies were associated with improved mental health.

Conclusions: Prior knowledge of psychotherapeutic strategies may play a role in managing mental health during unprecedented public health events such as a global pandemic. There may be value in promoting these techniques more widely in the community to manage general distress during such times.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1192/bjo.2020.170DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7844171PMC
January 2021

The Effect of COVID-19 on Mental Health and Wellbeing in a Representative Sample of Australian Adults.

Front Psychiatry 2020 6;11:579985. Epub 2020 Oct 6.

Centre for Mental Health Research, Research School of Population Health, The Australian National University, Canberra, ACT, Australia.

There is minimal knowledge about the impact of large-scale epidemics on community mental health, particularly during the acute phase. This gap in knowledge means we are critically ill-equipped to support communities as they face the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic. This study aimed to provide data urgently needed to inform government policy and resource allocation now and in other future crises. The study was the first to survey a representative sample from the Australian population at the early acute phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. Depression, anxiety, and psychological wellbeing were measured with well-validated scales (PHQ-9, GAD-7, WHO-5). Using linear regression, we tested for associations between mental health and exposure to COVID-19, impacts of COVID-19 on work and social functioning, and socio-demographic factors. Depression and anxiety symptoms were substantively elevated relative to usual population data, including for individuals with no existing mental health diagnosis. Exposure to COVID-19 had minimal association with mental health outcomes. Recent exposure to the Australian bushfires was also unrelated to depression and anxiety, although bushfire smoke exposure correlated with reduced psychological wellbeing. In contrast, pandemic-induced impairments in work and social functioning were strongly associated with elevated depression and anxiety symptoms, as well as decreased psychological wellbeing. Financial distress due to the pandemic, rather than job loss , was also a key correlate of poorer mental health. These findings suggest that minimizing disruption to work and social functioning, and increasing access to mental health services in the community, are important policy goals to minimize pandemic-related impacts on mental health and wellbeing. Innovative and creative strategies are needed to meet these community needs while continuing to enact vital public health strategies to control the spread of COVID-19.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2020.579985DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7573356PMC
October 2020

Examining the effects of social anxiety and other individual differences on gaze-directed attentional shifts.

Q J Exp Psychol (Hove) 2021 Apr 27;74(4):771-785. Epub 2020 Nov 27.

Research School of Psychology, The Australian National University, Canberra, ACT, Australia.

Gaze direction is a powerful social cue, and there is considerable evidence that we preferentially direct our attentional resources to gaze-congruent locations. While a number of individual differences have been claimed to modulate gaze-cueing effects (e.g., trait anxiety), the modulation of gaze cueing for different emotional expressions of the cue has not been investigated in social anxiety, which is characterised by a range of attentional biases for stimuli perceived to be socially threatening. Therefore, in this study, we examined whether social anxiety modulates gaze-cueing effects for angry, fearful, and neutral expressions, while controlling for other individual-differences variables that may modulate gaze cueing: trait anxiety, depression, and autistic-like traits. In a sample of 100 female participants, we obtained large and reliable gaze-cueing effects; however, these effects were not modulated by social anxiety, or by any of the other individual-differences variables. These findings attest to the social importance of gaze cueing, and also call into question the replicability of individual differences in the effect.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1747021820973954DOI Listing
April 2021

Observers perceive the Duchenne marker as signaling only intensity for sad expressions, not genuine emotion.

Emotion 2020 Jul 27. Epub 2020 Jul 27.

Research School of Psychology.

The Duchenne marker-crow's feet wrinkles at the corner of the eyes-has a reputation for signaling genuine positive emotion in smiles. Here, we test whether this facial action might be better conceptualized as a marker of emotional intensity, rather than genuineness per se, and examine its perceptual outcomes beyond smiling, in sad expressions. For smiles, we found ratings of emotional intensity (how happy a face is) were unable to fully account for the effect of Duchenne status (present vs. absent) on ratings of emotion genuineness. The Duchenne marker made a unique direct contribution to the perceived genuineness of smiles, supporting its reputation for signaling genuine emotion in smiling. In contrast, across 4 experiments, we found Duchenne sad expressions were not rated as any more genuine or sincere than non-Duchenne ones. The Duchenne marker did however make sad expressions look sadder and more negative, just like it made smiles look happier and more positive. Together, these findings argue the Duchenne marker has an important role in sad as well as smiling expressions, but is interpreted differently in sad expressions (contributions to intensity only) compared with smiles (emotion genuineness independently of intensity). (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved).
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/emo0000772DOI Listing
July 2020

Standardizing measurement in psychological studies: On why one second has different value in a sprint versus a marathon.

Behav Res Methods 2020 12;52(6):2338-2348

Research School of Psychology, The Australian National University, Canberra, 2601, Australia.

Here we highlight the importance of considering relative performance and the standardization of measurement in psychological research. In particular, we highlight three key analytic issues. The first is the fact that the popular method of calculating difference scores can be misleading because current approaches rely on absolute differences, neglecting what proportion of baseline performance this change reflects. We propose a simple solution of dividing absolute differences by mean levels of performance to calculate a relative measure, much like a Weber fraction from psychophysics. The second issue we raise is that there is an increasing need to compare the variability of effects across studies. The standard deviation score (SD) represents the average amount by which scores differ from their mean, but is sensitive to units, and to where a distribution lies along a measure even when the units are common. We propose two simple solutions to calculate a truly standardized SD (SSD), one for when the range of possible scores is known (e.g., scales, accuracy), and one for when it is unknown (e.g., reaction time). The third and final issue we address is the importance of considering relative performance in applying exclusion criteria to screen overly slow reaction time scores from distributions.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3758/s13428-020-01383-7DOI Listing
December 2020

A critical period for faces: Other-race face recognition is improved by childhood but not adult social contact.

Sci Rep 2019 09 6;9(1):12820. Epub 2019 Sep 6.

Research School of Psychology, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia.

Poor recognition of other-race faces is ubiquitous around the world. We resolve a longstanding contradiction in the literature concerning whether interracial social contact improves the other-race effect. For the first time, we measure the age at which contact was experienced. Taking advantage of unusual demographics allowing dissociation of childhood from adult contact, results show sufficient childhood contact eliminated poor other-race recognition altogether (confirming inter-country adoption studies). Critically, however, the developmental window for easy acquisition of other-race faces closed by approximately 12 years of age and social contact as an adult - even over several years and involving many other-race friends - produced no improvement. Theoretically, this pattern of developmental change in plasticity mirrors that found in language, suggesting a shared origin grounded in the functional importance of both skills to social communication. Practically, results imply that, where parents wish to ensure their offspring develop the perceptual skills needed to recognise other-race people easily, childhood experience should be encouraged: just as an English-speaking person who moves to France as a child (but not an adult) can easily become a native speaker of French, we can easily become "native recognisers" of other-race faces via natural social exposure obtained in childhood, but not later.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-49202-0DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6731249PMC
September 2019

Caricaturing can improve facial expression recognition in low-resolution images and age-related macular degeneration.

J Vis 2019 06;19(6):18

Research School of Psychology and ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders, The Australian National University, Canberra, ACT, Australia.

Previous studies of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) report impaired facial expression recognition even with enlarged face images. Here, we test potential benefits of caricaturing (exaggerating how the expression's shape differs from neutral) as an image enhancement procedure targeted at mid- to high-level cortical vision. Experiment 1 provides proof-of-concept using normal vision observers shown blurred images as a partial simulation of AMD. Caricaturing significantly improved expression recognition (happy, sad, anger, disgust, fear, surprise) by ∼4%-5% across young adults and older adults (mean age 73 years); two different severities of blur; high, medium, and low intensity of the original expression; and all intermediate accuracy levels (impaired but still above chance). Experiment 2 tested AMD patients, running 19 eyes monocularly (from 12 patients, 67-94 years) covering a wide range of vision loss (acuities 6/7.5 to poorer than 6/360). With faces pre-enlarged, recognition approached ceiling and was only slightly worse than matched controls for high- and medium-intensity expressions. For low-intensity expressions, recognition of veridical expressions remained impaired and was significantly improved with caricaturing across all levels of vision loss by 5.8%. Overall, caricaturing benefits emerged when improvement was most needed, that is, when initial recognition of uncaricatured expressions was impaired.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1167/19.6.18DOI Listing
June 2019

Impacts of impaired face perception on social interactions and quality of life in age-related macular degeneration: A qualitative study and new community resources.

PLoS One 2018 31;13(12):e0209218. Epub 2018 Dec 31.

Research School of Psychology, and ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and Its Disorders, The Australian National University, Canberra, Australia.

Aims: Previous studies and community information about everyday difficulties in age-related macular degeneration (AMD) have focussed on domains such as reading and driving. Here, we provide the first in-depth examination of how impaired face perception impacts social interactions and quality of life in AMD. We also develop a Faces and Social Life in AMD brochure and information sheet, plus accompanying conversation starter, aimed at AMD patients and those who interact with them (family, friends, nursing home staff).

Method: Semi-structured face-to-face interviews were conducted with 21 AMD patients covering the full range from mild vision loss to legally blind. Thematic analysis was used to explore the range of patient experiences.

Results: Patients reported faces appeared blurred and/or distorted. They described recurrent failures to recognise others' identity, facial expressions and emotional states, plus failures of alternative non-face strategies (e.g., hairstyle, voice). They reported failures to follow social nuances (e.g., to pick up that someone was joking), and feelings of missing out ('I can't join in'). Concern about offending others (e.g., by unintentionally ignoring them) was common, as were concerns of appearing fraudulent ('Other people don't understand'). Many reported social disengagement. Many reported specifically face-perception-related reductions in social life, confidence, and quality of life. All effects were observed even with only mild vision loss. Patients endorsed the value of our Faces and Social Life in AMD Information Sheet, developed from the interview results, and supported future technological assistance (digital image enhancement).

Conclusion: Poor face perception in AMD is an important domain contributing to impaired social interactions and quality of life. This domain should be directly assessed in quantitative quality of life measures, and in resources designed to improve community understanding. The identity-related social difficulties mirror those in prosopagnosia, of cortical rather than retinal origin, implying findings may generalise to all low-vision disorders.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0209218PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6312296PMC
May 2019

Reduced willingness to approach genuine smilers in social anxiety explained by potential for social evaluation, not misperception of smile authenticity.

Cogn Emot 2019 11 26;33(7):1342-1355. Epub 2018 Dec 26.

a Research School of Psychology, and ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders, The Australian National University , Canberra , Australia.

We investigate perception of, and responses to, facial expression authenticity for the first time in social anxiety, testing genuine and polite smiles. Experiment 1 (= 141) found perception of smile authenticity was unaffected, but that approach ratings, which are known to be reduced in social anxiety for happy faces, are more strongly reduced for genuine than polite smiles. Moreover, we found an independent contribution of social anxiety to approach ratings, over and above general negative affect (state/trait anxiety, depression), for genuine smiles, and not for polite ones. We argue this pattern of results can be explained by genuine smilers signalling greater potential for interaction - and thus greater potential for the scrutiny that is feared in social anxiety - than polite smiles. Experiment 2 established that, relative to polite smilers, genuine smilers are indeed perceived as friendlier and likely to want to talk for longer if approached. Critically, the degree to which individual face items were perceived as wanting to interact correlated strongly with the amount that social anxiety reduced willingness to approach in Experiment 1. We conclude it is the potential for social evaluation and scrutiny signalled by happy expressions, rather than their positive valence, that is important in social anxiety.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02699931.2018.1561421DOI Listing
November 2019

Caricaturing as a general method to improve poor face recognition: Evidence from low-resolution images, other-race faces, and older adults.

J Exp Psychol Appl 2019 Jun 15;25(2):256-279. Epub 2018 Oct 15.

Research School of Psychology.

There are multiple well-established situations in which humans' face recognition performance is poor, including for low-resolution images, other-race faces, and in older adult observers. Here we show that caricaturing faces-that is, exaggerating their appearance away from an average face-can provide a useful applied method for improving face recognition across all these circumstances. We employ a face-name learning task offering a number of methodological advantages (e.g., valid comparison of the size of the caricature improvement across conditions differing in overall accuracy). Across six experiments, we (a) extend previous evidence that caricaturing can improve recognition of low-resolution (blurred) faces; (b) show for the first time that caricaturing improves recognition and perception of other-race faces; and (c) show for the first time that caricaturing improves recognition in observers across the whole adult life span (testing older adults, M age = 71 years). In size, caricature benefits were at least as large where natural face recognition is poor (other-race, low resolution, older adults) as for the naturally best situation (own-race high-resolution faces in young adults). We discuss potential for practical applicability to improving face recognition in low-vision patients (age-related macular degeneration, bionic eye), security settings (police, passport control), eyewitness testimony, and prosopagnosia. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved).
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/xap0000180DOI Listing
June 2019

All tears are crocodile tears: Impaired perception of emotion authenticity in psychopathic traits.

Personal Disord 2019 03 16;10(2):185-197. Epub 2018 Jul 16.

Research School of Psychology.

In everyday life, other peoples' distress is sometimes genuine (e.g., real sadness) and sometimes pretended (e.g., feigned sadness aimed at manipulating others). Here, we present the first study of how psychopathic traits affect responses to genuine versus posed distress. Using facial expression stimuli and testing individual differences across the general population ( = 140), we focus on the affective features of psychopathy (e.g., callousness, poor empathy, shallow affect). Results show that although individuals low on affective psychopathy report greater arousal and intent to help toward faces displaying genuine relative to posed distress, these differences weakened or disappeared with higher levels of affective psychopathy. Strikingly, a key theoretical prediction-that arousal should mediate the association between affective psychopathy and intent to help-was supported only for genuine distress and not for posed distress. A further novel finding was of reduced ability to discriminate the authenticity of distress expressions with higher affective psychopathy, which, in addition to and independently of arousal, also mediated the association between affective psychopathy and reduced prosociality. All effects were specific to distress emotions (did not extend to happiness, anger, or disgust), and to affective psychopathy (did not extend to Factor 2 psychopathy, disinhibition, or boldness). Overall, our findings are highly consistent with Blair's theorizing that atypical processing of distress emotions plays a key etiological role in the affective aspects of psychopathy. We go beyond these ideas to add novel evidence that unwillingness to help others is also associated with a failure to fully appreciate the authenticity of their distress. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved).
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/per0000301DOI Listing
March 2019

Adaptive face coding contributes to individual differences in facial expression recognition independently of affective factors.

J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform 2018 Apr 21;44(4):503-517. Epub 2017 Aug 21.

ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders.

There are large, reliable individual differences in the recognition of facial expressions of emotion across the general population. The sources of this variation are not yet known. We investigated the contribution of a key face perception mechanism, adaptive coding, which calibrates perception to optimize discrimination within the current perceptual "diet." We expected that a facial expression system that readily recalibrates might boost sensitivity to variation among facial expressions, thereby enhancing recognition ability. We measured adaptive coding strength with an established facial expression aftereffect task and measured facial expression recognition ability with 3 tasks optimized for the assessment of individual differences. As expected, expression recognition ability was positively associated with the strength of facial expression aftereffects. We also asked whether individual variation in affective factors might contribute to expression recognition ability, given that clinical levels of such traits have previously been linked to ability. Expression recognition ability was negatively associated with self-reported anxiety but not with depression, mood, or degree of autism-like or empathetic traits. Finally, we showed that the perceptual factor of adaptive coding contributes to variation in expression recognition ability independently of affective factors. (PsycINFO Database Record
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/xhp0000463DOI Listing
April 2018

Perceived emotion genuineness: normative ratings for popular facial expression stimuli and the development of perceived-as-genuine and perceived-as-fake sets.

Behav Res Methods 2017 08;49(4):1539-1562

Research School of Psychology, and ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT, Australia.

In everyday social interactions, people's facial expressions sometimes reflect genuine emotion (e.g., anger in response to a misbehaving child) and sometimes do not (e.g., smiling for a school photo). There is increasing theoretical interest in this distinction, but little is known about perceived emotion genuineness for existing facial expression databases. We present a new method for rating perceived genuineness using a neutral-midpoint scale (-7 = completely fake; 0 = don't know; +7 = completely genuine) that, unlike previous methods, provides data on both relative and absolute perceptions. Normative ratings from typically developing adults for five emotions (anger, disgust, fear, sadness, and happiness) provide three key contributions. First, the widely used Pictures of Facial Affect (PoFA; i.e., "the Ekman faces") and the Radboud Faces Database (RaFD) are typically perceived as not showing genuine emotion. Also, in the only published set for which the actual emotional states of the displayers are known (via self-report; the McLellan faces), percepts of emotion genuineness often do not match actual emotion genuineness. Second, we provide genuine/fake norms for 558 faces from several sources (PoFA, RaFD, KDEF, Gur, FacePlace, McLellan, News media), including a list of 143 stimuli that are event-elicited (rather than posed) and, congruently, perceived as reflecting genuine emotion. Third, using the norms we develop sets of perceived-as-genuine (from event-elicited sources) and perceived-as-fake (from posed sources) stimuli, matched on sex, viewpoint, eye-gaze direction, and rated intensity. We also outline the many types of research questions that these norms and stimulus sets could be used to answer.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3758/s13428-016-0813-2DOI Listing
August 2017

Face-blind for other-race faces: Individual differences in other-race recognition impairments.

J Exp Psychol Gen 2017 Jan 28;146(1):102-122. Epub 2016 Nov 28.

Research School of Psychology.

We report the existence of a previously undescribed group of people, namely individuals who are so poor at recognition of other-race faces that they meet criteria for clinical-level impairment (i.e., they are "face-blind" for other-race faces). Testing 550 participants, and using the well-validated Cambridge Face Memory Test for diagnosing face blindness, results show the rate of other-race face blindness to be nontrivial, specifically 8.1% of Caucasians and Asians raised in majority own-race countries. Results also show risk factors for other-race face blindness to include: a lack of interracial contact; and being at the lower end of the normal range of general face recognition ability (i.e., even for own-race faces); but not applying less individuating effort to other-race than own-race faces. Findings provide a potential resolution of contradictory evidence concerning the importance of the other-race effect (ORE), by explaining how it is possible for the mean ORE to be modest in size (suggesting a genuine but minor problem), and simultaneously for individuals to suffer major functional consequences in the real world (e.g., eyewitness misidentification of other-race offenders leading to wrongful imprisonment). Findings imply that, in legal settings, evaluating an eyewitness's chance of having made an other-race misidentification requires information about the underlying face recognition abilities of the individual witness. Additionally, analogy with prosopagnosia (inability to recognize even own-race faces) suggests everyday social interactions with other-race people, such as those between colleagues in the workplace, will be seriously impacted by the ORE in some people. (PsycINFO Database Record
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/xge0000249DOI Listing
January 2017

Emotional Abilities in Children with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD): Impairments in Perspective-Taking and Understanding Mixed Emotions are Associated with High Callous-Unemotional Traits.

Child Psychiatry Hum Dev 2017 04;48(2):346-357

Research School of Psychology, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT, 0200, Australia.

Most studies of emotion abilities in disruptive children focus on emotion expression recognition. This study compared 74 children aged 4-8 years with ODD to 45 comparison children (33 healthy; 12 with an anxiety disorder) on behaviourally assessed measures of emotion perception, emotion perspective-taking, knowledge of emotions causes and understanding ambivalent emotions and on parent-reported cognitive and affective empathy. Adjusting for child's sex, age and expressive language ODD children showed a paucity in attributing causes to emotions but no other deficits relative to the comparison groups. ODD boys with high levels of callous-unemotional traits (CU) (n = 22) showed deficits relative to low CU ODD boys (n = 25) in emotion perspective-taking and in understanding ambivalent emotions. Low CU ODD boys did not differ from the healthy typically developing boys (n = 12). Impairments in emotion perceptive-taking and understanding mixed emotions in ODD boys are associated with the presence of a high level of CU.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10578-016-0645-4DOI Listing
April 2017

Children can discriminate the authenticity of happy but not sad or fearful facial expressions, and use an immature intensity-only strategy.

Front Psychol 2015 5;6:462. Epub 2015 May 5.

Research School of Psychology and ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders, The Australian National University , Canberra, ACT, Australia.

Much is known about development of the ability to label facial expressions of emotion (e.g., as happy or sad), but rather less is known about the emergence of more complex emotional face processing skills. The present study investigates one such advanced skill: the ability to tell if someone is genuinely feeling an emotion or just pretending (i.e., authenticity discrimination). Previous studies have shown that children can discriminate authenticity of happy faces, using expression intensity as an important cue, but have not tested the negative emotions of sadness or fear. Here, children aged 8-12 years (n = 85) and adults (n = 57) viewed pairs of faces in which one face showed a genuinely-felt emotional expression (happy, sad, or scared) and the other face showed a pretend version. For happy faces, children discriminated authenticity above chance, although they performed more poorly than adults. For sad faces, for which our pretend and genuine images were equal in intensity, adults could discriminate authenticity, but children could not. Neither age group could discriminate authenticity of the fear faces. Results also showed that children judged authenticity based on intensity information alone for all three expressions tested, while adults used a combination of intensity and other factor/s. In addition, novel results show that individual differences in empathy (both cognitive and affective) correlated with authenticity discrimination for happy faces in adults, but not children. Overall, our results indicate late maturity of skills needed to accurately determine the authenticity of emotions from facial information alone, and raise questions about how this might affect social interactions in late childhood and the teenage years.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00462DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4419677PMC
May 2015

Elevated levels of callous unemotional traits are associated with reduced attentional cueing, with no specificity for fear or eyes.

Personal Disord 2015 Jul 23;6(3):216-228. Epub 2015 Feb 23.

Research School of Psychology.

Three theoretical explanations for the affective facet of psychopathy were tested in individuals with high levels of callous unemotional (CU) traits. Theory 1 (Blair) proposes specific difficulties in processing others' distress (particularly fear). Theory 2 (Dadds) argues for lack of attention to the eyes of faces. Theory 3 (Newman) proposes enhanced selective attention. The theories make contrasting predictions about how CU traits would affect cueing of attention from eye-gaze direction in distressed (i.e., fearful) faces; eye-gaze direction in nondistressed (i.e., happy, neutral) faces; and nonsocial stimuli (arrows). High CU adults (n = 33) showed reduced attentional cueing compared with low CU adults (n = 75) equally across all conditions (eye-gaze in distressed and nondistressed faces, arrows). The high CU group's ability to suppress following of eye-gaze emerged with practice while the low CU group showed no such reduction in gaze-cueing with practice. Overall accuracy and RTs were not different for the low and high CU groups indicating equivalent task engagement. Results support an enhanced selective attention account-consistent with Newman and colleagues' Response Modulation Hypothesis--in which high CU individuals are able to suppress goal-irrelevant social and nonsocial information. The current study also provides novel evidence regarding the nature of gaze-following by tracking practice effects across blocks. While supporting the common assumption that following of gaze is typically mandatory, the results also imply this can be modified by individual differences in personality.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/per0000108DOI Listing
July 2015

Fearful faces drive gaze-cueing and threat bias effects in children on the lookout for danger.

Dev Sci 2015 Mar 18;18(2):219-31. Epub 2014 Jul 18.

Research School of Psychology, The Australian National University, Australia; ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders, Australia.

Most developmental studies of face emotion processing show faces in isolation, in the absence of any broader context. Here we investigate two types of interactions between expression and threat contexts. First, in adults, following of another person's direction of social attention is increased when that person shows fear and the context requires vigilance for danger. We investigate whether this also occurs in children. Using a Posner-style eye-gaze cueing paradigm, we tested whether children would show greater gaze-cueing from fearful than happy expressions when the task was to be vigilant for possible dangerous animals. Testing across the 8-12-year-old age range, we found this fear priority effect was absent in the youngest children but developed to reach adult levels in the oldest children. However, even the oldest children were unable to sustain fear-prioritization when the onset of the target was delayed. Second, we addressed the development of 'threat bias' - namely faster identification of dangerous animals than safe animals - in the social context provided by expressive faces. In our non-anxious samples (i.e. with typical-population levels of anxiety), adults showed a threat bias regardless of the expression or looking direction of the just-seen cue face whereas 8-12-year-olds only showed a threat bias when the just-seen cue face displayed fear. Overall, the results argue that some, but not all, aspects of expression-context interactions are mature by 12 years of age.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/desc.12203DOI Listing
March 2015

Not just fear and sadness: meta-analytic evidence of pervasive emotion recognition deficits for facial and vocal expressions in psychopathy.

Neurosci Biobehav Rev 2012 Nov 27;36(10):2288-304. Epub 2012 Aug 27.

Department of Psychology (buiding 39), The Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia.

The present meta-analysis aimed to clarify whether deficits in emotion recognition in psychopathy are restricted to certain emotions and modalities or whether they are more pervasive. We also attempted to assess the influence of other important variables: age, and the affective factor of psychopathy. A systematic search of electronic databases and a subsequent manual search identified 26 studies that included 29 experiments (N = 1376) involving six emotion categories (anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, surprise) across three modalities (facial, vocal, postural). Meta-analyses found evidence of pervasive impairments across modalities (facial and vocal) with significant deficits evident for several emotions (i.e., not only fear and sadness) in both adults and children/adolescents. These results are consistent with recent theorizing that the amygdala, which is believed to be dysfunctional in psychopathy, has a broad role in emotion processing. We discuss limitations of the available data that restrict the ability of meta-analysis to consider the influence of age and separate the sub-factors of psychopathy, highlighting important directions for future research.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2012.08.006DOI Listing
November 2012

Face recognition impairments despite normal holistic processing and face space coding: evidence from a case of developmental prosopagnosia.

Cogn Neuropsychol 2010 Dec;27(8):636-64

Department of Psychology, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia.

Holistic processing and face space coding are widely considered primary perceptual mechanisms behind good face recognition. Here, however, we present the case of S.P., a developmental prosopagnosic who demonstrated severe impairments in face memory and face perception, yet showed normal holistic processing and face space coding. Across three composite experiments, S.P. showed normal-strength holistic processing for upright faces and no composite effect for inverted faces. Across five aftereffect experiments, S.P. showed normal-sized face aftereffects, which derived normally from face space rather than shape-generic mechanisms. The case of S.P. implies: (a) normal holistic processing and face space coding can be insufficient for good face recognition even when present in combination; and (b) the focus of recent literature on holistic processing and face space should be expanded to include other potential face processing mechanisms (e.g., part-based processing). Our article also highlights the importance of internal task reliability in drawing inferences from single-case studies.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02643294.2011.613372DOI Listing
December 2010

Diagnosing prosopagnosia: effects of ageing, sex, and participant-stimulus ethnic match on the Cambridge Face Memory Test and Cambridge Face Perception Test.

Cogn Neuropsychol 2009 Jul 16;26(5):423-55. Epub 2009 Nov 16.

Australian National University, Canberra, Australia.

The Cambridge Face Memory Test (CFMT) and Cambridge Face Perception Test (CFPT) have provided the first theoretically strong clinical tests for prosopagnosia based on novel rather than famous faces. Here, we assess the extent to which norms for these tasks must take into account ageing, sex, and testing country. Data were from Australians aged 18 to 88 years (N = 240 for CFMT; 128 for CFPT) and young adult Israelis (N = 49 for CFMT). Participants were unselected for face recognition ability; most were university educated. The diagnosis cut-off for prosopagnosia (2 SDs poorer than mean) was affected by age, participant-stimulus ethnic match (within Caucasians), and sex for middle-aged and older adults on the CFPT. We also report internal reliability, correlation between face memory and face perception, correlations with intelligence-related measures, correlation with self-report, distribution shape for the CFMT, and prevalence of developmental prosopagnosia.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02643290903343149DOI Listing
July 2009